27 May 2012
23 May 2012
FIVE YEARS LATER (17 January 2018).
I am adding an FAQ to this post because some people are definitely just googling out of innocent curiosity (though that doesn't take away from the fact that many people ask in not very innocent and actually outright malicious ways):
Content/TW: Mentions of sexual abuse and violence follow.
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to have sex?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to have romantic and sexual relationships?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to get married?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to fall in love?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to date?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to date non-autistic people?
Q. Is it possible for autistic people to date other autistic people?
Q. Have you had sex?
A. You're an internet stranger, so why would I answer that question?
Q. Has [specific other autistic person] had sex?
A. I don't know. Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Q. Can autistic people choose to be celibate?
Q. Can autistic people be asexual, gray-asexual, or demisexual?
Q. Can autistic people be aromantic, gray-romantic, or demiromantic?
Q. If an autistic person is on either the asexual or aromantic spectra, is that because they are autistic?
A. Not necessarily. Being autistic does not inherently mean a person will be either asexual or allosexual, or on the aromantic spectrum or not. For many autistic people who are both asexual and autistic or aromantic and autistic (or aro, ace, and autistic), there is no connection between autism and asexuality/aromanticism. For other autistic people who are asexual and/or aromantic, there is a connection.
Q. Is it safe for my autistic adult child to have sex?
A. If you are the parent of an autistic adult, the best thing you can do to support them is to make sure they have access to consent-based sex education and information about different types of protection so they can make informed decisions about safer sex.
Q. Do autistic people masturbate?
A. Some autistic people masturbate.
Q. Can autistic people masturbate?
Q. If someone is sexually interested in an autistic person, wouldn't that make them a pedophile?
A. Not unless the autistic person is a child. If an adult (non-autistic or autistic) is sexually interested in an autistic child, they are a pedophile. If an adult is sexually interested in an autistic adult, they are not a pedophile.
Q. If someone is sexually interested in an autistic person, wouldn't that make them a predator?
A. If they exploit, manipulate, or abuse the autistic person, or otherwise violate that person's consent, then yes. But a non-autistic person is not a predator simply for being sexually interested in an autistic person.
Q. Can autistic adults meaningfully consent to sex?
A. Yes, and we can also decline to consent or withdraw consent once an interaction has started.
Q. Is all sex with an autistic person predatory and therefore sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape?
A. If a person forces sexual acts on an autistic person against their will, that is sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape. If an autistic person consents to sexual acts with a specific also-consenting person (or more than one consenting person) at a particular time, then all involved are simply having a good time.
Q. I know an autistic person who masturbates in public. What do I do?! How do I stop it?!
A. Teach autistic people about boundaries. If you are the parent or teacher of this person, show them that it is OK to masturbate if they are in private in their own room or a bathroom with the door shut and locked (if there is a lock). Teach them that it is never OK to masturbate in front of other people unless they consent first (like in mutual masturbation). You should also make sure that the autistic person isn't actually doing something else that might look like masturbation but isn't -- like scratching their anus because they have gastrointestinal issues and perhaps irritable bowel syndrome. If that's the case, you can also teach the person that other people might wrongly assume they are masturbating and they might still want to seek a private place to scratch.
Q. Are there any resources for teaching autistic people about sexuality and relationships?
A. Yes, there are several. For example, check out the following just as a starting point:
- "Relationships and Sexuality: A Handbook for and by Autistic People" edited by Elesia Ashkenazy and Melanie Yergeau
- "Neurodivergent Sexuality" by Aegyo Kawaii
- The Autism Spectrum Guide to Sexuality and Relationships: Understand Yourself and Make Choices that are Right for You by Emma Goodall
Q. I dated an autistic person once and they were a complete asshole. Are all autistic people complete assholes?
A. No ... We're individuals, which means that some of us are assholes -- and some are far worse than simply being assholes -- and plenty of us thankfully are not.
Q. If an autistic man keeps asking me on dates/groping me/sexually harassing me/pressuring me into sex/standing too close to me/making other sexual comments to me, even though I have told him to stop and that he is violating my boundaries, do I need to cut him some slack because he is autistic and doesn't understand social cues like neurotypical people?
A. NO. Being autistic is NEVER an excuse for sexual harassment or any other form of sexual abuse or sexual violence. He knows. He is choosing to be an asshole and to increase stigma against all the non-asshole autistic people in the process. (Autistic men also do this to other autistic people, especially those who either are or are assumed to be women, and it is still not OK. Also autistic women and non-binary people can do this too, and it is still not OK.)
Q. Can autistic people impregnate their partners/become pregnant?
Q. Should we allow autistic people to impregnate their partners/become pregnant?
A. Autistic people should have the same reproductive choices and freedom as all people in society, including the ability to choose to become biological parents and the ability to choose to use different forms of contraception and birth control, and the ability to choose to either carry pregnancies to term or to abort them.
Q. OK, but isn't it a bad thing if autistic people are reproducing children that are also likely to be autistic?
A. No, unless you are in fact a proud support of eugenics, in which case, why the hell are you on my blog?
Q. I just typed a question into the internet. Why are you being so rude?
A. Because a lot of people brazenly demand personal and invasive details about autistic people's sexual lives/histories, especially when they don't even know us personally, and they often do so in a really condescending way because they're assuming that no autistic person could ever possibly want to have sex or be capable of having sex. So even if you personally didn't mean anything offensive or mean by it, plenty of other people have, and being asked the same thing repeatedly gets really annoying and frustrating. In any case, it's still probably better that you asked the internet instead of asking a random autistic person you know.
Q. Can I ever ask a specific autistic person if they have sex?
A. Only if you are actually propositioning that specific person because you would like to have sex with them. Otherwise it's really rude.
Q. Does being autistic affect how autistic people have sex?
A. It depends on the person. Some autistic people might have to work around tactile sensory sensitivities to have enjoyable and pleasant sex. Other autistic people might specifically be kinky and do BDSM because their specific kinks match their sensory-seeking needs. Some autistic people may need to be very explicit during sex about what they are enjoying or not enjoying. Some autistic people may need their partners to only use deep pressure and avoid light touches (or the opposite). If your romantic and sexual partner / datemate / one-night stand / scene partner / sex worker happens to be autistic (and you know this), feel free to ask what they like/dislike and what is absolutely off-limits (but you should try to do this anyway regardless of neurotype).
Q. Will you have sex with me?
Q. I am lonely man with high-functioning Asperger's desperate to find Aspie girlfriend/wife. You are beautiful and would be perfect. Please contact me; we are meant to be together.
18 May 2012
TASH New England's Better Supports, Better Lifestyles in Today’s Challenging World Conference on Friday 11 May 2012 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. From left to right: Emily Titon, Gregory Miller, and me.
The Friday morning session was called "What They Do to Us is Intolerable! A Discussion About Restraints, Seclusion Time Outs, and Aversives," and it was organized by Emily Titon, an amazing Autistic woman who in addition to serving on the boards of TASH national and TASH New England and the Rhode Island Advocates in Action, has also co-founded the Rhode Island chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
(I was informed that I was co-presenting that this session after Emily had already told the conference organizer.)
I hadn't expected to be discussing the history of the Judge Rotenberg Center and its use of electric shock, food deprivation, prolonged restraint, and fear as forms of "treatment" while standing less than six feet away from the former JRC employee who has written a 250,000+ signature strong petition demanding an end to the electric shock "treatment." Gregory Miller is a man with the courage to speak against egregious violations of human rights even in the face of a lawsuit brought against him by the JRC's powerful army of lawyers and backed by the JRC's money.
At $250,000 each year per student, the JRC's revenue allows the institution to fund lobbyists, lawyers, parents, and staff to flood public legislative and regulatory hearings with brainwashed testimony built on a castle of lies and half-truths. That same fat pocketbook also gives the JRC the musclepower to effectively silence any would-be whistleblowers and prevent the truth about their methods from reaching the public.
But the walls protecting the JRC are slowly crumbling. While Massachusetts has repeatedly failed to pass legislation banning the use of electric shocks, we've begun to take small steps forward -- toward the ultimate and permanent closure of the institution.
New York, the state that provides the vast majority of the JRC's residents, passed legislation banning the use of electric shock on any residents from New York, though people from New York still comprise the majority of the JRC's students.
Matthew Israel, the JRC's founder, was forced to resign last year in a plea bargain after he faced perjury charges and charges of intentionally destroying evidence in a 2007 incident that resulted in the repeated shocking of two students who hadn't even engaged in dangerous or self-injurious behavior.
The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services enacted into law regulations that ban the use of aversives, including electric shock, on any students admitted after September 2011, though the regulations do allow for the use of electric shock where it was included in court-approved behavior plans created before September 2011.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture decried the JRC's practices as torture after receiving a report from Disability Rights International.
The U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division opened an investigation into the JRC in December 2010, though the investigation has produced little tangible.
And the Massachusetts Senate has repeatedly passed a ban on aversives, although this ban has never passed through the Massachusetts House.
Let's also not forget that first California, and then Rhode Island, prohibited the use of aversive interventions favored by Matthew Israel, in whose care at least six students have died as a direct or indirect result of the aversive intervention program, resulting in the JRC's final relocation to Massachusetts where the facility still stands today.
Last month, in a civil trial against the Judge Rotenberg Center, a judge unsealed graphic video footage of then-eighteen Andre McCollins receiving thirty-one electric shocks after refusing to remove his jacket. Footage of that video has received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.
Shortly afterward, Greg Miller, the former JRC employee who joined Emily and I at the TASH New England conference a week ago, wrote a petition demanding the end of electric shock aversives, which has received over 250,000 signatures to date. The JRC has decided to sue him in an attempt to silence him. They've accused him of defamation and making false statements, as well as being a disgruntled employee who was fired, when in fact, Greg resigned and has documentation of his resignation. Greg has made several media appearances in the last two weeks in the hopes of galvanizing the public further to action against the JRC.
Today, Massachusetts State Senator Brian Joyce, who actually represents the district where the JRC is located, filed two anti-aversives amendments to the budget that will be debated starting this coming Wednesday. The first of the amendments would solidify the DDS regulations promulgated last year by codifying them and giving further protection against potential suit. The second amendment is a complete ban on aversives, which the Senate has previously passed on multiple occasions. Massachusetts residents have until Wednesday or so to urge their State Senators to co-sponsor or support the anti-aversives amendments before they go to the floor for debate.
Also in this past week or so is the announcement of legislation jointly filed by New York Senator Martin Golden and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (S6294A-2011 and A9084A-2011) that would cut all state or public funding to any school, institution, or program that uses any form of aversives. Electric shock is specifically named because the legislation is in fact targeted at the JRC. As the majority of the JRC's residents are from New York, passing those bills could permanently damage the JRC's primary source of revenue, and possibly lead to the institution's closure because of inability to support itself financially.
In the wake of Andre's trial against the JRC and Greg's petition, several disability rights activists and community stakeholders have formed the group Occupy JRC, and are planning a 2 June 2012 rally in Canton near the JRC itself, at which Greg Miller will be one of the speakers along with disability rights advocates Senator Brian Joyce, Kat Whitehead (Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth), Dan Fisher (National Empowerment Center), Ari Ne'eman (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), Laurie Ahern (Disability Rights International), Daniel Hazen (Voices of the Heart), and Joseph Sitinbull (Helping Others to Promote Equality).
Yet while cautiously hopeful that the JRC is in fact under threat of imminent closure due to the increased publicity around its use of torture, and mounting campaigns from both government and grassroots opposition to its practices, it is imperative to remember that thousands of people with disabilities continue to languish in institutional facilities and nursing homes across the nation where abuse and neglect come in many forms.
Cuts to funding for public service providers have resulted in unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to full integration and meaningful community inclusion, meaningless day-habilitation programs, denial of necessary medical attention, and deplorable conditions inside institutions and group homes. Schools routinely subject students with disabilities to all forms of restraint and seclusion as mechanisms for "dealing with" students whose behaviors and learning styles diverge too much from the norm to be acceptable.
Our society has built a culture of complete lack of empathy for those who diverge from norms or typicalities, with the bricks of dehumanization and othering laying the foundation for a world in which these types of abuse are perpetuated.
05 May 2012
Andre McCollins, a teenager with a disability, was asked to take off his jacket by staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center. When he refused, staff electric shocked him and he tried to hide under a table. They dragged him out and tied him face-down to a restraint board where he was kept for seven hours without a break, and shocked a total of thirty-one times. All but one of those electric shocks were for tensing up or screaming. He was hospitalized with acute post-traumatic stress, and his mother couldn't even use a cell phone or TV remote around him, because they look exactly like the shock devices staff use.
Another victim of the JRC was a girl with cerebral palsy who was also nearly blind. She was electric shocked for reaching for a staff member's hand.
The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts is a residential facility for children and adults with disabilities, including developmental, intellectual, and mental disabilities. They claim to "save lives" with the electric shocks, but it doesn't take an expert to realize that what the JRC really does is torture in the name of treatment. Not one other institution or program in the United States uses electric shock aversives.
I am Autistic, and watching the video of Andre's torture that aired in court last month terrified me, because I know that the people in the JRC are people like me -- people with disabilities -- and it's the fact that they have disabilities that's being used as an excuse for torture and abuse. I know one woman who considered sending her Autistic son to the JRC, and I have an adult Autistic friend who was nearly sent to the JRC. I'm horrified that the JRC is still in operation, especially because I live in the state where the JRC operates, and I want to see the JRC closed.
What happened to Chris Baker in Kentucky is a result of the same attitudes that allow the JRC to continue its operations -- the attitude that people with disabilities like Chris, Andre, and me are inherently broken, diseased, or defective, and that it's therefore permissible to treat us in ways that wouldn't be legal or acceptable to treat anyone without a disability.
Former JRC staff member Gregory Miller, who witnessed their techniques in person, has written a petition demanding the end of the electric shocks at the JRC. If you're like me and reading this sickened you, then take a look at the video of Andre's torture and then sign the petition to demand an end to the torture.
Greg is fighting the same fight that I am -- the fight to ensure RESPECT for all people with disabilities, especially in the name of treatment, therapy, or intervention.
Blessings and peace,